Just outside the city of Salisbury, Figsbury Ring is a Neolithic and Iron Age hillfort which is a beautiful spot for a walk or a picnic. It has impressive views over Salisbury from the top of the ramparts and is a site of special scientific interest, filled with grasslands and wildlife including butterflies, orchids, fireflies and skylarks. It is owned by the National Trust but is free to visit and is open all year round.
Just outside the small village of Firsdown 5 miles from Salisbury, Figsbury Rings lies at the end of a rather potholed track in the middle of the countryside. You enter through a latched gate and walk down a wild hedge-lined path before emerging into a wide open space with ramparts rising up in front of you.
You can wander at will, explore down in the ditches or walk the narrow chalky path at the very top of the ramparts.
The area is home to a wide variety of orchids, butterflies and insects, including the elusive glow worm. Skylarks swoop and sing in the skies above and the enclosures are filled with a carpet of wildflowers in the summer.
A small herd of nine or ten colourful cows graze the landscape, but they are well used to sharing the site with people and there is plenty of space for everyone.
There are never more than a handful of people there, usually just a few dogwalkers, and often you can have the whole place to yourself.
Kids love Figsbury as they can run up and down the banks and ditches. Usually there is a makeshift rope swing which hangs from one of only two trees on the ramparts, and this will keep them amused for ages as they launch themselves off the bank and into the air.
If you visit at the right time of year, the edge of the ring at the back of the site has a wealth of blackberries and rose hips for picking if you are keen on foraging.
There are also several geo-cache sites in the area, which are always fun to find.
A footpath, part of the 625 mile Monarch's Way, leads off the site at the back, down through farmland to the village of Winterbourne Earls.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF FIGSBURY RING
What you see first when you approach the site is the univallate hillfort, an oval enclosure defended by a single line of 18 metre high ramparts, surrounded by a ditch. The site was excavated in 1924, which recovered Iron Age pottery, leading archaeologists to conclude that the site was an Iron Age hillfort.
Within the ramparts is a Neolithic henge with an oval enclosure and a single ditch, nearly 5 metres deep. This ditch produced animal and human bones as well as Beaker and Grooved Ware pottery, dating it to the late Neolithic. Archaeologists believe that it was probably originally a causewayed enclosure, which would have later been modified into a henge monument.
Causewayed enclosures were not permanent homes for the Neolithic population but rather a meeting place possibly used for social, ritual or trade centres in the nomadic society, providing a place of stability for people who were just starting to put down roots.
Over time, many causewayed enclosures became settlements, which may well have been the case here, with its transition to henge and then hillfort.
Figsbury Ring was known in antiquity as ‘Chlorus’ Camp’, suggesting that the site was also occupied by the Romans at one point, and it does sit near the Roman road. Chlorus Constantine was an Roman Caesar from 250 AD, and it is known that he campaigned in Britain in 305 AD, dying here a year later, so it is entirely possible, although no evidence of the Romans has been found in excavations of the site.
The site has only been partially excavated. In 1704, a late Bronze Age sword was found by a farmer which is now in the Ashmolean Museum. Excavations in the 1980s produced flint artefacts, showing that the area had been occupied for longer than was originally thought.
If you like hillforts, try Danebury, which is ten miles away and is considered by many to be the definitive hillfort, as much of our understanding of them comes from Danebury. It is also a beautiful place filled with wildlife and has extensive countryside walks.
VISITING FIGSBURY RING
How to get to Figsbury Ring
Postcode: SP4 6DT
Public Transport: There is a bus stop, called Figsbury Ring, at the turn-off to the site on the A30. You can catch either bus number 87 or the Park and Ride PR7 bus from the centre of Salisbury. The journey takes about 20 minutes. Find timetable >>
Parking: If you are driving, Figsbury Ring is off the A30 between Salisbury and Firsdown. It is well signposted and leads you up a narrow track past a few houses. Keep going until you reach the car park. Parking is free in the National Trust car park, whether you are a member or not.
When is Figsbury Ring open?
The rings are open from dawn until dusk
How much does it cost to visit Figsbury Ring?
The site is free to visit and there are no charges for parking either.
Are there any facilities at Figsbury Ring?
There are no facilities here other than a car park, the site is not staffed and there are no loos or refreshments.
Useful tips for visiting Figsbury Ring
The track and car park are filled with large potholes so drive very slowly and carefully.
The site is exposed and can get windy, and in bad weather you will definitely need walking boots or wellies.
Dogs are welcome so long as you clean up after them. In fact, some kind person has added a wooden tennis ball dispenser next to the sign, so you can borrow and return a tennis ball for your dog to play with.
Figsbury Ring is on the boundary of the Salisbury Plain Training Area, so don’t be alarmed if you see red flags flying on the nearby MOD land. Just stay out of the MOD land (clearly signposted) and you will not have any problems.
One of the homes on the track up to the car park, sells Figsbury Ring honey. Have some cash handy in case there is some available, as you won't get a more local product than that. Find it at what3words: eradicate.puffed.trusts
Which is the nearest town to Figsbury Rings?
Salisbury is the nearest town. See our Salisbury City Guide for details on how to get to Salisbury, locally owned accommodation, restaurants and shops, further places to visit and things to do.